Watkins v. United States Army Case Brief

Summary of Watkins v. United States Army, U.S. Circuit Court for the 9th Circuit (1989)

Relevant Facts: Army policy of discriminating homosexuals, bisexuals from the armed forces.

Issue: Under constitutional law, is the Army’s policy of discrimination against homosexual and bisexual individuals violative of the EPC?

Holding: Yes. Application of strict scrutiny showed there was no compelling interest from keeping homosexuals out of the military.

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: Using strict scrutiny, the judge applied the following factors:

(1) the group at issues had suffered a history of discrimination without a purpose.

(2) the discrimination embodied a gross unfairness that is sufficiently inconsistent with the ideals of EPC to term it invidious. In deciding so, the court considered if the disadvantaged class was discriminated by a trait which had nothing to do with an ability to contribute/perform in society. Additionally, the court found there were unique disabilities b/c of inaccurate stereotypes. Third, the court said that sexual preference rested on the conscious choice of the individual.

Rule: Discriminating on the basis of homosexuality is violative of the EPC.

Important Dicta: N/A.

Dissenting: (Judge Reinhardt): Thought that the actions of homosexuals was what determined the level of discrimination (sodomy was a military crime).

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